spite the popular belief that our society is becoming an increasingly desensitised place to live in, CalArts graduate Jeanette Bonds shows no signs of underestimating the public’s capacity to be offended. Her short animation Trusts & Estates comes with multiple proclamations of its explicit content, and while the verbal exchanges that drive Bonds’ narrative revel in tart, amoral language and imagery, labels like these are as much a recommendation for fans of adult-orientated cartoons South Park and Family Guy as they are a warning to those of a sensitive disposition.
These, however, are superficial comparisons. That Trusts & Estates is an animation dealing with adult themes is where any possible similarities begin and end. Adapted from a conversation overheard in a Los Angeles restaurant, Bonds’ film finds itself in a similar setting as four chauvinistic lawyers discuss everything from diets to the disabled with a distressing sense of ignorance and candour. The unscrupulous nature of these corporate sharks becomes even more apparent when the contrived sexual objectification of one of their adolescent daughters begins to dominate proceedings, resulting in some of the most wretched dialogue you’ll here all year. With the ick-factor cranked up all the way to eleven, all you can do is sit back and try not to lose your lunch.
The film works for the very same reason it was conceived: that despite the vulgarity at hand, this is a conversation one would easily crack their neck trying to eavesdrop on were they given the chance. It may be crass and offensive, but it’s also relentlessly compelling and realised with admirable conviction by a wonderful voice cast. Vocal ticks and syntactic bungles are retained (or were perhaps encouraged) and the characters often talk over each other rabidly, adding to the film’s realistic atmosphere.
The stark, hand-drawn animation leaves no room for ambiguity – in a simple world comprising of only black and white, there’s no doubting that these men are bad seeds, leaving the viewer feeling justified in their hatred for them. Those who like their humour as perverse as possible will find much to enjoy, but even the faint of heart can appreciate the skill with which Bonds dissects the hypocrisy of her characters. The film’s final image is as haunting as it is hilarious. After all, which is more offensive: the views of these men, or the society and institutions that validate them.